One of the most rewarding parts of a shared community in a learning system such as ours is that students get to share with each other.  In 2014 we were overwhelmed with great advice from our consultants in training. They shared some wonderful feedback on how they practice their craft and how they work with clients.  We gained insight into a global perspective on image and style consulting as well.  It was a bit of a job to cull the responses down into our top twenty but here they are for you to enjoy as well.  We heartily thank our students for sharing. Gillian Armour, Director FSI

Share At Least One Tip Of Advice That You Use When Working With Your Clients On Their Style And Why You Do This

Note: These are not edited. We are posting them as they came in from all parts of the world! The joy is in the sharing and we thank all of you who do so!

1) I love fashion and getting the knowledge on the history, will be very rewarding in my role as an Image Consultant. When I began working with my new clients, in the beginning of my consultation, I would like to provide a brief fashion history overview. I will also educate on the diff of Ready-to-wear and Mass Market fashion. I want my clients to understand the quality is important and an investment. Providing these clear overview I believe will allow them to understand how important their image is, and the quality in selected clothing shows, according to the price paid.

2) I work in a television environment - so when we bring talent in - we work a little backwards and look at our items we are selling (fashion items) and our team of talent and figure out which styles will look best on which talent - to showcase our items on television in their best light.  One thing that is very very important in this process is thinking about who is buying this product and what styling they would like to see - shoes, model ages, sizes, jewelry and pull together an image or several different images that fit our customer's lifestyles.

3) 1st when I meet a client I will go through her album of photos or digital photos and see what she used to wear and what she likes to wear and also I will ask her what are her favourite outfits and have a little chat about herself and her lifestyle so I can be able to edit her wardrobe and style of garments she wears.

2nd I will take a photo of her after asking her and telling her my steps of before and after so she can observe the difference and notice the make-over.

3rd i begin to work upon the data i gather and i take her opinion in every step and ask her to take a look at what I have chosen for her after explaining to her as a consultant why this is better.

4th begins the active part and the action after shopping which is to finalize the look.

4) In the initial consultation, I ask the client to share their vision of themselves.  I let them know that it is my goal to deliver on the vision of their ideal, empowered image.  Visual aids are extremely helpful to share examples of fashion, hair and makeup and lifestyle.  Storyboarding to communicate what the client's goal looks like is a very effective tool in the image making process.  After completing the assessment of the client's body type, I invite them to make a Pinterest board (Pinterest.com) or collage to assist them in creating and sharing their desired image.  I suggest that they share it with me, to put it somewhere in their home where they can see it often.  This allows the makeover process to be dynamic, inspiring and fun.  It starts to turn the client's dream into reality!

5) During my initial consultation as an Image Consultant, I will discuss with my clients their vision and expectations for the service. This helps us to become clear on our goals and objectives for each session. This method also helps the client to focus more on what they’re really looking for in this service and assures me I can meet those expectations. With the vision and expectations set, I can then focus on meeting the client’s expected outcomes.

I want to also make these sessions fun and interesting for the client. They should be able to learn new things about themselves such as their best colors, cuts and styles while also exploring new trends they can wear to spice up their total look. For example, if while completing their personal style questionnaire, I discover they are more interested in a romantic style of dress but are wearing classic, conservative style clothing, then this may be an area where we identify clothes that fit more of their own personality. My vision is that these sessions are memorable to them and make them feel special. I want to create experiences that last and that keeps them coming back for more.

6) I always try to make my clients fell comfortable and relaxed by offering some form of refreshment before we get started. I then proceed to having a brief conversation and then get into the session of filling out the questions step by step. I have observed that most people are not sure what they need and i do believe as Image Consultants we are to guide, inform and enlighten. What a great job.

7) I believe that people become their best selves when they're dressed and groomed according to who they authentically are inside. Self-esteem shines, and confidence sky-rockets! Through images of celebrities and well known people, I'll show how each has established a particular "brand" that tells us who they are. Would Mother Teresa wear red lipstick? Would Cher wear flouncy frills? Likewise, I'll help my client determine her own authentic style sense, and then help her choose clothing and colors that showcase her unique, personal brand.

8) I like the fact that you want clients to have their own individual style. My aim as an image consultant and fashion stylist is to make sure women look to themselves for inspiration, and not try to look like a particular celebrity. In this fame driven world, I believe that individuality often gets lost in the mists. We often see, especially in hair salons, women walking in with a picture of a celebrity, and asking if the stylist can make them look like it. I see nothing wrong with being inspired, however being identical to someone else should never be the goal. Emerson said it best when he claimed "Imitation is suicide".

Therefore, when i work with my future clients, my intention is to make sure to pass on that they, as an individual, are enough. They have to find a style that showcases their personality and taste, not someone else's. I want to be able to dress them first with nurturing, and then proceed to the fabric.

9) In my opinion, success and mutual understandings with clients directly depends on consultant's personality. A consultant should aspire to be a miscellaneous learned person (to know the basis of composition, history of culture, etiquette, declamation); be empathetic, attentive and diplomatic; should be able to accept people the way they are, not blame or impose ones preferences; keep learning, practicing and self-improving. Relying on the firm basis of theory, it is necessary to find unique features in every person that in the end help to form a perfect individual image.

During the first meeting if the client does not mind, I will ask questions and try to learn more about his / her preferences. For example, what books, films and music he or she likes; what motivates and what depresses; most and least favorite colors; the main goal in life; favorite destination for a vacation; the happiest day in life; if he / she likes regularity of spontaneity, peace or speed, loud companies or quiet get-togethers; I'll ask to tell a little about family and friends. It can be in the written form, such as a colorful questioner, or a spontaneous talk.

10) I have thoroughly enjoyed the first module as it has provided me with a wealth of knowledge and ideas. I'm taking this course to begin my practice as an image consultant so I am not speaking from experience; however, I believe that when possible it may be useful to do the initial consult in the client’s home. First, it would provide for a relaxed environment. Second, it would give me an opportunity to take in an aspect of their lifestyle (how is the house furnished, are the furnishings expensive, is it tidy, messy, comfy, what colors are used, etc.). Finally, I could get a peek into their closet immediately and my client could show me (and possibly try on) favorite pieces, items they love/wear frequently, and those pieces they dread to wear. Then our follow up appointment would be back at my office.

11) One of my tips for been an Image Consultant is getting to know your client first, asking him or her basic questions about their  lifestyle what do they do and want to accomplish in their life so I can get a better idea in what they will like. What kind of job they have, if they have lots of social events, stay at home mom to a successful business women. When I have that part clear I can start giving them my opinion in their image in what do I think it would work for them best.

Another basic question is asking them what kind of clothes they usually wear, colors, shoes, pants, skirts because the most important thing when dressing up and shopping for new clothing is to ask yourself if you feel comfortable with that piece of clothing, also if you can wear the piece of clothing that you selected on either daily basis or a night out. Clothe that you enjoy and feel comfortable using all day long it is very important that you can identify to have in your closet.

Remember that their some certain pieces that you must have in your closet: the basic white tank, little black dress, the year round booties (trend), the basic flat and most important leather is forever it is a classic while last you forever so do not get rid of leather jackets or skirts. Also the basic colors in your closet that most likely are year round and flattered almost any skin tone are: white and black.

12) Because of my age and stage of life, I am very involved with young mothers. These are women who went from being fashion forward ladies to living in yoga pants and tee shirts. They don't know how to get back into fashion, because they feel like they fell asleep at 23 and woke back up at 31! When working with young mothers, I think it is important to make them feel validated in their work as a mother, but show them that it IS POSSIBLE to be a young mom AND be fashionable! Encourage, Encourage, Correct!

13) I am pursing image consulting because 1) I enjoy fashion and color 2) I like helping people feel new and improved giving them a better sense of themselves. I work in the tech industry and plan to do image consulting as a side business so start up I will hold informational sessions at my work place and my friends’ work places. This will give them a taste of what to expect from an image consult.

14) When I normally give a tip to a person about clothing and style, I always look at their body type. I often see that people do not wear the appropriate clothes for their body, for example a person with a round body shape wants to dress like an hour glass body shape person and it does not look right, I see this all the time.

Also, you need to know what colors match with your skin tone, for example I know that yellow pastel does not look good on me because my skin is pale.

Accessories, for me if you are petite you cannot wear big and heavy accessories, those are for taller people. It does not mean that you can only wear small accessories but you need to be careful that you will not look overcharged with the accessories.

I always encourage people to take the best from themselves out. It does not matter if your dress costs $3500 or $40 you can always look great if you learn what to wear. Get inspired!

15) One thing I do in closet editing sessions is to see how their underwear fits their body. I used to be a fitter for a specialty custom-made underwear designer and I learned how important it is to choose the right underwear and the factors that influence its fitting. Elements such as the size, shape, placement and impact on fitting of outer garments are all critical. A slight adjustment of the bra straps can raise the bust point, make their bust fuller and slim the waist line. The client can ultimately look slimmer and younger without losing kilos.

Whilst I undertake a wardrobe audit, I also check how their underwear fit their body and see if advices on their underwear would help them looking better. However, I'm aware that it could be one of the most intimate things to advice on, so I do make sure if they are happy to get advice on it first. Since a lot of women are not accustomed to get a professional assistance when they buy their underwear, my advice is quite often a good surprise for them.

16) I would like to share an experience I had with a stylist about 4 years ago.  On meeting she asked me what areas made me most self-conscious and I replied that my tummy did.  She proceeded to dress me in clothes that hid my tummy - loose t-shirts and jeans that gave me a tummy tuck.  I left her thinking that she was amazing but that my problem was much worse than I thought.  My whole style became about hiding my tummy.

A few years later with a bit more experience I realized that at 2-3 [pounds] under my ideal weight the only tummy problem I had was in my head!  She was just 'doing her job' - getting me clothes that I would feel comfortable wearing, in a certain time frame and getting paid.  The moral of this for me is that we should not underestimate the influence we can have over our clients, their self- esteem and their lives afterwards so we need to be mindful at all times that it is a positive one.  My tip is to be honest and supportive at all times and never meet a client unless you genuinely care about their feelings.

17)  My philosophy for consulting follows the same line as my philosophy for life in general- always seek to identify and focus on the positive first!  Regarding "problem areas", I simply identify them with my client, and always remind my client that no "perfect" person exists.  A well-styled and constructed wardrobe should be meant to flatter.  If we help the client in choosing the correct clothing for her body type, this will be accomplished. I feel there is no need to "dwell" on any problem areas- at least not more than we focus on all the beautiful attributes of our clients!

I agree that caring is an important component in what we do.  In fact, I believe any occupation where one works directly with people, this is essential.  For example, imagine there are two doctors- both equally intelligent and equally skilled.  However, one robotically does his job, never stopping to consider the patients feelings when informing of a diagnosis or administering treatment, while the second doctor smiles, displays empathy, and always makes certain that the patient is comfortable at every level during interactions.  Both doctors would be considered "professional", but which doctor would most patients prefer? I think about this every time I find myself in any role where I work with people.

18) When I am working with a new client I always encourage them to try on something they would not automatically pick for themselves. I find that so many woman discount clothes simply by looking at them on the hanger saying the size is wrong or they only wear a certain color, they don’t like their arms etc. etc.). They are often surprised at how great they look once they try something new on and by trying something different they get a better idea of what flatters their body shape and suits them. Equally I advise my clients to get to know their body shape and to look at the piece of clothing rather than the size on the label as these can vary so much from brand to brand.

I live in a rural community where camouflage is not a fashion statement but a way of life. I constantly here ‘I like to be comfortable’, but I believe that comfort does not have to equal lack of style and help my clients to understand that it is just as easy to put on a flattering pair of pants as it is baggy, elasticated ones. I am passionate about looking good (anything that makes our lives more interesting can’t be a bad thing) and I put a lot of effort into making my store/studio an inspiring and creative space filled with quality fabrics, beautiful patterns and color that will help to inspire people to create their own stories through their dress.

19) This is such a great tip.  It has happened to me so many times I have been out shopping and one of my family members will say "just try this" or for fun we should be silly and try that.  It is always either a style or a color I would not naturally pick for myself.  Over 50 percent of the time I am stunned at how it works.  So i like you will encourage the clients to keep an open mind for a few items that may encourage them to step out of their comfort zone while giving them most of what they are comfortable in via color and shape and cut.  NOT based in size!  you are right on the money.  Sizes fluctuate!  Thanks for the great tip.

20) Tip to make the Initial Consult an enjoyable experience for my client: Because some clients are prone to stressing out a bit before the Consultation, it is my job to make the client feel relaxed and safe by building a relationship based on Confidentiality, Professionalism, Trust, Integrity and Honesty. How and When do I do this? During our first contact, usually a telephone conversation, I am polite keeping the conversation to the point and emphasizing that all her personal data will be protected (Confidentiality). I give her a quick guideline of the process that is going to follow when we meet personally such as: dress code for her body measurement, make up, filling forms and style personality questionnaire etc. (Professionalism). I assure her that our meeting is going to be an enjoyable and exciting experience, and that the day is about HER! I share with my client that my aim is to style her according to her personality, lifestyle, tastes, and hobbies so that she feels amazing and still feels herself at the end of the consultation (Trust). This is done always in accordance to her Budget and needs (Integrity and Honesty).

And a small tip for the day my client and I meet: I make sure my studio is clean, tidy, lightly scented with essential oils, correct room temperature, low volume music playing in the background (to her taste) and refreshments are offered, all creating the right atmosphere for my client to feel special!

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